It’s hard to overestimate the impact of Ghost in the Shell. It’s probably the most influential and internationally celebrated Japanese animated film of all time, with the exceptions of Akira and Studio Ghibli’s consistently brilliant output. Even today, after the advent of the internet and much of its prescient themes having become reality, it remains a visually stunning piece of work with genuinely serious philosophical ideas. Pretty much every science fiction film made since owes it a great debt, particularly The Matrix (which even mimics certain sequences shot for shot), and the improved visuals on the 2008 version (referred to as Ghost in the Shell 2.0) make it look even more state-of-the-art.

The obvious irony in the way the film marries profound philosophy with technically brilliant animation is that this is reflected in the plot – it’s about the fused relationship between humans and technology in more ways than one. It also has some fascinating gender politics – the protagonist is female, but never sexualised by her colleagues and in possession of a cyborg body. It seems to exist in a post-gender world where technology has advanced beyond such things, and the closest we get to reproduction is the merging of data, even if said data is essentially a human soul. The rest of the franchise explores these themes further – the TV series Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex and the film sequel Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence are both worthwhile, each just as intellectually and visually dazzling.

A truly profound influence on animation and science fiction10
Ideas about our interaction with technology that were scarily ahead of its time9
Animation that is still visually stunning even today10
Occasionally oblique philosophical musings8
Fascinating subtexts and themes about gender9
Bechdel Test Passes
  • Arguably features more than one named female character
  • The female characters talk to each other
  • They talk about something other than men
Bechdel Test Failures
  • The other character is genderless really, in fact you could argue both are
9Overall Score

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